We arrived back in Seattle last night – Texas is once again a faraway land, and on Monday we’ll return to work and the associated “real world”. But it was a pretty grand vacation, up until the very end…

We kicked off Thursday with a walk along the riverfront – the Colorado River ran right past our hotel and was bordered by a beautiful walking path that ran for miles in either direction.  We didn’t see quite as much sun as we’d hoped in Austin, but those warm, humid mornings were still wonderfully tropical.  If I can be in a tank top at 10 am, I’m a happy camper.

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Post-walk, we grabbed coffee and breakfast tacos at Jo’s – one of the places we’d vowed to return to after our first stroll down South Congress. Their patio is the perfect place to camp out with a book and a latte, and we sat there for awhile, alternately reading and people-watching (this place is hipster central). It’s also the coffee shop with the best graffiti.

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We spent the early part of the afternoon at the downtown AMoA Arthouse, taking in their latest contemporary art exhibits. I majorly dug the architecture-inspired drawings by Seher Shah. From there, we picked up a picnic lunch at the market and drove over to the sister Arthouse at Laguna Gloria. The art collection at this site was small, but the grounds were beautiful. Our old friend Steve, Shane’s best man at our wedding, lives in Dallas and made the drive out to Austin to catch up with us over salami and cheese.

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We headed back to our hotel and I got some rest while Shane and Steve chilled out on our patio. It was so good to see the easy way they fell into conversation with one another, as if hardly any time had passed in the four years since they last saw each other.

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The three of us grabbed dinner that evening at Black Star Brewery. We sat at our table well after we’d finished eating and talked about theology, about dreams for the future, about finding our callings, and then it was time to say good-bye to Steve as he hit the long dusty trail back to Dallas.

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I assumed we were calling it a night after that, but Shane had other plans up his sleeve.  I raised my eyebrows when we missed the turn to our hotel, and he grinned that mischievous cocktails-on-the-brain grin of his.  We parked on 4th Street and headed toward Peche, known (in Shane’s circles, at least) for their impressive absinthe selection.  But first, we paused for a moment on the sidewalk to listen to this band’s rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama”.  Gotta love Austin.

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Shane’s absinthe pour was all he’d hoped it would be, and I was quite taken with my lime ricotta tart and cherry whipped cream.  Double-score.

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We started Friday morning with another long walk along the river (still working off that brisket!), and then brunched Bouldin Creek Cafe.  The food was excellent, the hippie vibe was lots of fun, and I reveled in what I feared may be out last outdoor dining experience for awhile.

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We had an evening flight and a couple of hours to kill until then, so we drove up to Mount Bonnell to check out the view of the city.  That morning mist had yet to burn off, so things weren’t super-clear, but the stairclimb definitely did me good.

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Temperatures were in the 80’s by this point and we were feeling ready for some lounging, so we drove over to Barton Springs Pool to grab a seat on the lawn.  This pool, an offshoot of the river, is incredible – it’s absolutely huge and has this cool mixed character of man-made and natural.  I wasn’t equipped for a swim, but it felt good to kick our shoes off and lay in the grass for an hour.

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A quick stop at the Ice Cream Social truck for waffle cones, one more iced coffee at Jo’s, and then it was time to say so long to Austin.  We were a couple pounds heavier, a bit more tan, and a lot more relaxed than when we’d first arrived – the city had been good us.

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Steve asked Shane and I on Thursday night what it was that we hoped wouldn’t change with the arrival of the baby, and this question has been rattling around in my head ever since.  There were so many moments in this trip that were decidedly kid-less (long mornings in bed, late night cocktails, the absence of any sort of set schedule), and as hard as it may be to see that sort of freedom go, I’m ok with it.  But the laughs?  The joy in sharing a new experience?  Our ability to have silly, unbridled fun together, to genuinely enjoy just laying on the grass with one another?  That’s the good stuff, the stuff that’s here to stay.